Monday, January 7, 2008

This moment, right here, right now, could be your last.

It began like any other Wednesday, my usual day off. I got up early to take my two boys to School as I always did on Wednesdays. The boys were usually taken to school by their Mom every day of the week except for Wednesday. You see, Wednesday was Dad's day to drive them to and from school and they seemed to enjoy the change. As we finished up breakfast and loaded into the car, we talked about the threat of snow for the day. The boys loved all the snow we'd been getting since we moved up here to Pennsylvania. During these winter months it seemed it snowed a little everyday. Here it was mid February and we've already seen more snow than I've seen in my entire life in Kansas. Thinking back, I can remember we got over 120 inches of snow that winter!

Before we arrived at school the boys already had plans to sled when they got back home later that afternoon. I promised to pick them up as usual after school and then said my goodbye's as they hopped out of the car. As I drove back home all I could think about was getting on my new 4 wheeler that I had bought just two weeks ago. I hadn't had much of an opportunity to ride it like I wanted to, but this morning I had planned to enjoy time riding the trails in the mountains near our house. These trails were awesome, they went for miles and miles through the wilderness and over the last week or two I had been riding them trying to learn my way around the mountains. Even though it was very cold with the threat of snow later on in the day, I figured I could still get in a good ride before noon. The Year was 1995 and this cold February day that began like any other day would change my life forever! I just didn't know it yet.

Thinking back on this day and what happened, it's kinda strange how oblivious we are to major events that affect and change our lives, we just do not know what tomorrow will bring do we? Tomorrow? We don't even know what's going to happen in the very next moment of today! This moment, right here, right now, could be your last.

I bundled up and was armed for the cold weather with my coat, gloves and helmet. I was actually pretty warm as I took off up the hill through the trees across the street from our house. I had told my wife I was going riding and that I'd be back later. She knew I had planned on exploring some more of the trails that I had discovered last week, so she expected me to be gone for a while. The ride was great! I quickly found a familiar trail through the woods and took off on a great ride. Other than the bitter cold weather, I was having the ride of my life. Well after riding for a few hours I realized that I was about half froze and I decided I better head on in. Besides, it was almost noon and I was getting hungry. A cup of hot chocolate sounded great at the moment! I traveled back through miles of trails and I was almost home, maybe a mile away is all and I suddenly saw a short trail that went up a small steep hill. I stopped at the bottom of this little hill and decided to take the hill rather than go around. It seemed harmless enough and really it was, but I messed up. As I started up the hill I didn't go fast enough. I didn't have enough momentum to carry me up the hill and as I began to climb my 4 wheeler began to bog down and lose power. Suddenly I came to a stop on the hill and at this moment I really didn't think I was in any danger at all. What I'd do is simply pull in the clutch and coast backwards down the hill like I've done many time on my motorcycle. This was my first 4 wheeler I've ever owned but I've enjoyed riding motorcycles since I was 16 years old. That's where I messed up. My experience riding motorcycles had caused me to instinctively pull in the clutch as I began to roll backwards, but on a 4 wheeler, there isn't a clutch. It's not like a motorcycle. Sure the lever is there just like on a motorcycle but rather than being a clutch, it's your rear brake. The worst thing I could have done in that moment was hit the rear brake while beginning to roll backwards down this steep little hill. As soon as I pulled the brake, the 4 wheeler flipped backwards and I was thrown to the ground flat on my back, and as quickly as this happened I realized the 4 wheeler was going to land right on top of me. I quickly raised my legs thinking I would kick off the 4 wheelers as it came down on top of me, but the weight and momentum of the vehicle simply flattened me. My legs did little to soften the blow. The handlebars crashed into my head and the weight of the vehicle simply pushed my right leg right up behind my head and as a result of the impact, shattered my hip socket and twisted my leg out of place. It happened so suddenly that at first I didn't know what had happened. Thank God I was wearing my helmet or my face would have been crushed, instead my head was just smashed to the side but no damage was done other than my neck was sore from the force of the impact. I immediately felt swelling in my groin area. I didn't feel pain at this moment, but the pressure was increasing quickly in my groin and I knew I was hurt bad. I figured I had broke my pelvis or something, I wasn't sure, but I knew it was serious! As I lay there I see that my 4 wheeler is still running, it had actually landed upright right beside of me and it was still running, just idling. As I looked around I notice I'm laying in a muddy hole, I was wet and cold. Because of the swelling in my groin I'm afraid to move. I know I have to try and move and somehow get myself on my 4 wheeler and get home or I might never be found up here. I begin to think about how stupid it was for me be riding up here all by myself, my real worry though was that no one would be riding on a day like today. It's just too cold, let's face it, the only reason I was out riding was because I wanted to ride my new 4 wheeler, no one else in their right mind would be out riding on a day like today. I hadn't seen a single person all morning long, so I knew the chances of someone stumbling upon me was not good. I looked at my watch, it's noon. What am I going to do? I check myself out, I think I'm OK other than my injury to my pelvis area. I don't appear to be bleeding anywhere, that's a good thing. I'm able to think clearly, that's a good thing. Let's see if I can get on this 4 wheeler and putt back home. As I try to scoot towards the 4 wheeler my leg twists and suddenly I'm in severe pain, Up till this point I had only felt pressure, but not really any pain. Now, the pain was tremendous. I quickly tried to maneuver back to the position I was in prior to moving but with each little movement the pain got worse. I was crying out, but the pain never stopped. It was unbearable. Finally as I held perfectly still, the pain began to subside and I was able to breathe normally again. I grabbed a stick and reached out towards the 4 wheeler with the stick and was able to turn the 4 wheeler off so it stopped running. All was quite. I lay there thinking about how I'm going to get home or how am I going to get help. I didn't own a cell phone then, so I couldn't call anyone. My only hope was to scream out for help as loud as I could and hope that someone would hear me. I begin to yell out "Help", "Help Me!" "Can anyone hear me!" I did this for several minutes and then I remember thinking, "How useless is this?" "There's not going to be anyone out here to hear me. I too far up the side of this mountain. Maybe if I was closer to the road, but I'm still a mile up in the woods, what's the use?" Suddenly I hear movement in the woods up above me up the mountain a ways. I can't see anything and I finally think it must be an animal like a deer, or fox. My mind races back to the black bear my family and I saw crossing the road a few weeks ago. "Great," I think... "just my luck, it's probably a black bear and he's going to hear all the yelling and screaming I'm doing and come down here and take a swat at me." My only thought was how bad that was going to hurt when my leg moved again! I lay there quite, listening for anything, but nothing, not even a bird chirping, nothing but a slight cold breeze whispering through the trees. As I lay there I just stare up to the sky. Wow, it's a pretty day. Although it was bitter cold, the sun was shining. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face as I looked up to the sky. It felt good. For the first time since my accident, I begin to think about God. Up till this point, my mind had been racing trying to figure out what to do, not once did I think to pray or ask God for help until now. In the quietness of this moment I begin praying. I'm ashamed I hadn't thought of praying sooner. As I think back to that day, I sure wasn't very mature in my faith or my walk with the Lord at the time. My prayers were shallow at best. I prayed for God to send me help, I prayed that my injuries wouldn't be too severe. I didn't realize it right then but everything I prayed for was for me. I was even making deals with God. "Dear God, if you'll get me through this safely Lord I promise I'll be more faithful in going to Church." Lord, I'll be a better Dad and a better husband." I'm ashamed when I think back to the prayers I offered up to God during this terrible time in my life. Of course after each prayer, I still felt all alone. It was like God couldn't hear me, or at least that's how it felt. I begin to scream out some more... "Help! Is anyone out there?" "Help Me!" I do this for the next hour or so. I decided I'd cry out for help every minute on the minute just in case someone was out there. So for one hour, every minute on the minute, I would yell out for help as loud as I could, hoping by some miracle someone would hear my cries. Over this hour the sun begins to fade and the clouds begin rolling in and then here comes the snow! As the snow falls on my face while I look up to the sky, I wonder if this is going to be my last day. This could be it for me. I realize if I'm not found before it gets dark, I doubt that I'll survive the night. I'm already freezing cold and beginning to shiver uncontrollably. The more I shiver and shake the more I cry out in pain as my leg twitches. I know that my body temperature has got to be dropping. I begin to sob and cry. I'm angry at myself for getting myself in this position. I cry as I think about the possibility of dying out here all alone here in these woods. What will it be like? I begin day dreaming about my life, my boys, my wife, the things we've done and the plans we had that now could be shattered. I begin to think about what my wife will be going through when I don't come home, how worried she will be for me and I again get angry with myself for putting my family through all of this. I notice time has passed quickly. I do not remember anything from 2pm -3pm. I must have passed out or fallen asleep? Did I daydream all this time? I'm very confused at to what has happened because I remember looking at my watch every minute, then suddenly an hour has past and I can't recall any of the time? I realize I should have been picking the boys up from school right now. Now I know that Brenda and the boys know that something has happened to me. I would have been home by now and I know Brenda's probably frantic because I didn't come home. I imagine the boys asking Mom, "Where's dad?" when she picks them up at school. They will see the fear in her eyes. I begin to cry again. I think about how worried she must be. I cry because I know I've scared the boys and I hate that they are going through this.

I pray some more. I'm praying more often now. I know it's going to be dark by 5pm. Two hours of daylight left! I have to get home. I have to drag myself off this mountain somehow. I can't just lie here and die. With all the courage and strength I have I begin turning myself around so my head will be downhill rather than uphill. The pain is incredible. I had been so afraid to move but now I force myself to pivot. I think that if I can lift myself up on this 4 wheeler somehow, then I can get home. I drag myself next to the 4 wheeler and try to sit upright but I can't do it. The pain is too much. I stop moving to lessen the pain. What am I going to do now? I remember thinking maybe I can drag myself down the mountain on one of the trails. I know it's far but maybe I can slide down a trail. I begin my journey and I slowly begin inching down the trail. I feel every rock and root in the trail. These trails aren't smooth, and the trail I'm on happens to be a washed out trail where rain runs down the hill, so you can imagine how rough this part of the trail was. To make a long story short, it takes me half and hour to go maybe 25 feet and I'm in unbearable pain and have to stop often to get through it. I finally lay there and rest, catching my breath and praying some more. I begin to frantically cry out for help. Maybe I just haven't yelled loud enough. I keep telling myself I have to keep trying to get help. I stop and simply rest. It feels good to stop and rest, it's peaceful, I'm very tired. I just want to rest. I look at my watch and I see it's about 4pm. The sun is beginning to go down, it's getting even colder now. I can't stop shivering, my teeth are chattering uncontrollably. It happens again. Time has passed and I can't remember it? I must have fell asleep again. I'm so tired and it's difficult to stay alert. I just want to rest, to lay here and relax.

As I lay there my thoughts again go to my family. I've heard stories of when people get close to death, they see their life flash before their eyes. That's not was happening here, but it was more like a slow slide show of pictures in my mind of things I did with my boys and my wife. Things like hiking trips, riding bikes, piggy back rides, all the fun things we've done together. I begin to give up. I realize that I'm not going to be found and I begin to think differently. I'm not hurting any more, I even stop shivering. It feels great not to shiver! I don't feel so cold now. I'm OK, this isn't so bad. I really do think I'm going to die, I just don't feel like I have the strength to stay with it. I remember thinking to myself, that dieing this way wasn't going to be as bad as I imagined. I'm at peace, I'm just going to go to sleep soon and not wake up. I thank God for the break in the pain. I mean I literally thank God in my prayer for the relief He's given me. As I lay there on my back, looking up into the heavens I offer up my final prayer.

"Dear God, forgive me for all my failures to live as I know I should have. Lord I know the end is near, and I'm OK with that Lord, Thank you for loving me so much and giving me this peace during this time. I know that heaven awaits me and thank you Lord for saving me. (I pause) (I begin to weep as I continue praying and I cry through the rest of my prayer.) Lord, thank you so much for my beautiful wife Brenda, I love her so much. Lord I thank you so much for the time you've given me with my two boys. I love them both so much. Lord what gifts you've given me and I'm so thankful. Please God, take care of my wife and boys for me Lord. Please God provide for them. Lord please allow Brenda to find someone that will love her and care for her and my sons since I won't be able to do that anymore. Please Lord help Eric and Ryan through this terrible time of losing their Dad. Please don't let them suffer long. Comfort them and wrap them with your love. Please Lord, I just want them to be happy in life. Thank you Lord Jesus. Thank you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen."

As if on cue, I hear the sound of an approaching motorcycle coming down the trail above me! I turn my head and a motorcycle comes flying over the little hill and almost lands right on top of me. It's a good thing I had drug myself down about 25 feet or he'd have killed me trying to save me. I recognize the rider, he's my neighbor's son. He asks if I'm OK, and I tell him I'm hurt real bad, I explain I been here since noon. He tells me he's going back for help and promises to be right back. I thank him and he takes off.

Thank you Lord! Is all I can say. I shout it out! "Thank you God!" I wonder if anyone heard that! It dawns on me, that God answered my prayer and I breakdown because I know in that very moment that my prayers weren't answered all day long until I finally stopped focusing on me and my problems and finally surrendered my life and my only concern was for my family. My only prayer was for God to send them someone that could love and care for them as I wish I could. God gave me this wonderful opportunity. He allowed me to be the one! I was overwhelmed with emotion and praise! I knew I was going to be OK. I knew at this moment that God was giving my life purpose.

It took them a long time to get me down off that mountain. They had to take me down in the back of a pickup truck, but only after cutting several trees down to be able to get a truck up there to where I was. The ambulance was waiting for me on the road at the bottom of the trail. I'll never forget how good it felt to have those hot blankets thrown over me and to feel the heat from the heat lamps.

Later my wife told me about what she had went through, I felt so sad for her and the boys. It hurts me to think about the pain I caused them. Oh what a terrible mistake I made that day. It almost cost me my life! Brenda said when I didn't come home to get the boys she was real worried. She said when she picked the boys up at school,the first thing they did was ask where I was because I had told them I would be picking them up. This is when she knew for sure something bad had happened. She said she felt it it her stomach. She was terrified and didn't know what to do and the only thing she could think of in that instant was... She knew that she needed to pray, and not just her prayers! She frantically called every Christian she knew and told them to pray and pray hard for me. The word spread like wildfire and within 30 minutes time, there were several churches praying for me. Prayer chains were activated everywhere and I was amazed later to hear just how many people were praying for me in my time of need. It was unreal! As soon as Brenda got home she ran to all the neighbors houses and told them that I hadn't returned home and that something was wrong. The neighbor boys all got on their bikes and immediately hit the trails in all directions to search the mountains for me. Brenda went home and prayed none stop until she finally heard the news that I was found. When God answered my prayer, he answered hers at the same time.

As I laid there waiting to be rescued I heard the sound of an approaching motorcycle. Brenda when she saw me, jumped off the back of that bike and ran to me and layed on top of me to help warm me. I was so glad to see her. I'll never forget that moment. She saved me through her prayers, she saved me through her actions, and God gave me an extended life, a gift, of loving her and providing for her and my sons as long as He sees fit. I'm thankful for every day he gives me. What an awesome God we serve! Everyday I live, is another blessing from God! Everyday!
Thank you Lord Jesus! Thank you!

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